You can identify a european wasp by their stout body shape, black antennae and distinctively vivid yellow and black-banded abdomen that have a pair of black spots on each yellow band. They have two pairs of clear wings, where the first set of wings is larger than the second. You will also notice that when in flight their legs are held very close to their body.
The european wasp is native to Europe, North Africa and Asia Minor, and were first found in Australia in 1959 in Tasmania. They are now known to have established themselves throughout Australia and are found in large communal nests, normally only visible as a small entrance hole. They are normally built either underground or in cavities in walls, ceilings, logs or trees. The nests are made from chewed wood fibre, and the workers leave the nest in search of food, and are attracted to meats, insects, sweet food and drink.
European wasp colonies are started in spring by a single fertilised queen, which lays an egg in a number of cells in the nest. These hatch into grub-like larvae and are tended by the queen for a number of weeks. Once the larvae reach maturity they become the first batch of workers (sterile females) that take over nest construction and rearing of new larvae while the queen concentrates on laying eggs. The nest grows throughout the summer months and towards the end of summer, several larger cells are constructed, in which a new generation of queens and males reproductives develop. In late autumn the original queen dies, and the new queens disperse to find suitable over-wintering sites before forming a new nest in spring.
In Europe the original nest then disintegrates and the dispersed queens hibernate in sheltered spots beneath loose tree bark or in roofs. A hibernating queen holds on to the substrate with her jaws, and tucks her legs, wings and antennae beneath her, remaining immobile for up to six months. However, in the warmer climate of Australia, one of the new queens may stay in the nest and begin laying eggs, without the usual over-wintering period being observed. Over several seasons, this can result in giant nests containing more than 100,000 wasps.